Although the troubadours flourished at the height of the Middle Ages in southern France, their songs of romantic love, with pleasing melodies and intricate stanzaic patterns, have inspired poets and song writers ever since, from Dante to Chaucer, from Renaissance sonneteers to the Romantics, and from Verlaine and Rimbaud to modern rock lyricists. Yet despite the incontrovertible influence of the troubadours on the development of both poetry and music in the West, there existed no comprehensive anthology of troubadour lyrics that respected the verse form of the originals until now.
Lark in the Morning honors the meter, word play, punning, and sound effects in the troubadours' works while celebrating the often playful, bawdy, and biting nature of the material. Here, Robert Kehew augments his own verse translations with those of two seminal twentieth-century poets—Ezra Pound and W. D. Snodgrass—to provide a collection that captures both the poetic pyrotechnics of the original verse and the astonishing variety of troubadour voices. This bilingual edition contains an introduction to the three major periods of the troubadours—their beginning, rise, and decline—as well as headnotes that briefly put each poet in context. Lark in the Morning will become an essential collection for those interested in learning about and teaching the origins of Western vernacular poetry.
|Publisher:||University of Chicago Press|
|Edition description:||Bilingual edition|
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About the Author
Robert Kehew is an independent scholar, translator, and troubadour enthusiast.
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Lark in the Morning
The Verses of the Troubadours
THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS
Copyright © 2005
The University of Chicago
All right reserved.
Chapter One Guillem de Peiteus
[Guillem de Peiteus] was one of the most courtly men in the world and also one of the greatest deceivers of women; and he was a good knight-at-arms and generous in his gallantry; and he could write good poetry and sing well.
What this quote from his vida neglects to tell us is that Guillem, the seventh count of Poitiers and the ninth duke of Aquitaine, was also one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the Europe of his day. While nominally he was a vassal of the distant French king, in reality Guillem's word was law within a territory much more extensive than the Royal Demesne around Paris that the king then controlled; a land whose fecundity was hinted at by the name Aquitaine, which means "land of waters."
Because Guillem de Peiteus was so prominent, we know more about him than we do about most of the makers of song. The First Troubadour (as he was traditionally known) was born in 1071. He belatedly joined the First Crusade; his misadventures on that campaign, as well as his possible sources for poetic inspiration, are discussed in the introduction. He made a couple of bellicose forays into Spain and neighboring Toulouse. Guillem apparently was, as one tongue-clucking medieval chronicler puts it, a vehemens amator foeminarum-a lustful lover of women. As a warrior and a philanderer, Guillem was excommunicated or threatened with expulsion from the church more than once. (On one such occasion, when a shiny-pated bishop reproached him for his adulterous relations with a certain viscountess, Guillem retorted: "I will only repudiate her when your hair needs a comb.") By the time of his death in 1127, however, he had resolved his grievances with the church.
Critics have divided Guillem's eleven surviving songs into three groups. One subset addresses courtly themes; these poems show that the notion of fin' amor was already discussed and even parodied in Guillem's time. The first selection, "Ab la dolchor del temps novel" ("A New Song for New Days"), is from that group. This is undoubtedly one of Guillem's loveliest poems, with its comparison of love to a hawthorn bough-although the First Troubadour cannot resist a leer at the end.
Another set of poems consists of ribald songs written to amuse his companhos or drinking buddies. The remaining two selections are of that ilk. The bawdy tale of "Farai un vers, pos mi somelh" ("The Ladies with the Cat"), which features two ladies contending with the narrator for what Jewers terms "amorous mastery," seems appropriate for Playboy-where it has indeed appeared. Jewers points out that it is unusual to encounter a cat that is red such as the feline of this narrative. She speculates that Guillem may be alluding to "contemporary portrayals of the devil as a large red beast with devouring jaws," or else making a statement that "love is red in tooth and claw" ("Poetics of (S) Cat-Ology," 48-50).
A final subset of Guillem's poems, consisting of only one song (surely his last), repents a sinful life.
In the work of Guillem de Peiteus we find in nascent, rudimentary form many of the concepts that the later troubadours would elaborate. Bawdy tales, daydreams while one idles along on a horse, as well as refined expressions of love-on such foundations does modern European poetry rest.
Ab la dolchor del temps novel Guillem de Peiteus
Ab la dolchor del temps novel Foillo li bosc, e li aucel Chanton, chascus en lor lati, Segon lo vers del novel chan; Adonc esta ben c'om s'aisi D'acho don hom a plus talan.
De lai don plus m'es bon e bel Non vei mesager ni sagel, Per que mos cors non dorm ni ri, Ni no m'aus traire adenan, Tro que sacha ben de fi S'el' es aissi com eu deman.
La nostr' amor vai enaissi Com la branca de l'albespi Qu'esta sobre l'arbre tremblan, La nuoit, a la ploia ez al gel, Tro l'endeman, que·l sols s'espan Per la fueilla vert e·l ramel.
Enquer me membra d'un mati Que nos fezem de guerra fi, E que·m donet un don tan gran, Sa drudari' e son anel: Enquer me lais Dieus viure tan C'aia mas manz soz so mantel.
Qu'eu non ai soing de lor lati Que·m parta de mon Bon Vezi, Qi'eu sai de paraulas com van, Ab un breu sermon que s'espel, Que tal se van d'amor gaban, Nos n'avem la pessa e·l coutel.
A New Song for New Days Guillem de Peiteus
Such sweetness spreads through these new days: As woods leaf out, each bird must raise In pure bird-latin of its kind The melody of a new song. It's only fair a man should find His peace with what he's sought so long.
From her, where grace and beauty spring, No word's come and no signet ring. My heart won't rest and can't exult; I don't dare move or take a stand Until I know our strife's result And if she'll yield to my demands.
As for our love, you must know how Love goes-it's like the hawthorn bough That on the living tree stands, shaking All night beneath the freezing rain Till next day when the warm sun, waking, Spreads through green leaves and boughs again.
That morning comes to mind once more We two made peace in our long war; She, in good grace, was moved to give Her ring to me with true love's oaths. God grant me only that I live To get my hands beneath her clothes!
I can't stand their vernacular Who'd keep my love from me afar. By way of words, I guess I've found A little saying that runs rife: Let others mouth their loves around; We've got the bread, we've got the knife.
W. D. Snodgrass
Farai un vers de dreyt nien Guillem de Peiteus
Farai un verse de dreyt nien: Non er de mi ni d'autra gen, Non er d'amor ni de joven, Ni de ren au, Qu'enans fo trobatz en durmen Sobre chevau.
No sai en qual hora·m fuy natz: No suy alegres ni iratz, No suy estrayns ni sui privatz, Ni no·n puesc au, Qu'enaissi fuy de nueitz fadatz, Sobr' un pueg au.
No sai quora·m suy endurmitz Ni quora·m velh, s'om no m'o ditz. Per pauc no m'es lo cor partitz D'un dol corau; E no m'o pretz una soritz, Per Sanh Marsau!
Malautz suy e tremi murir, E ren no·n sai mas quan n'aug dir; Metge querrai al mieu albir, E no sai tau; Bos metges es qui·m pot guerir, Mas non, si amau.
M'amigu' ai ieu, no sai qui s'es, Qu'anc non la vi, si m'ajut fes; Ni·m fes que·m plassa ni que·m pes, Ni no m'en cau, Qu'anc non ac Norman ni Frances Dins mon ostau.
The Nothing Song Guillem de Peiteus
Sheer nothing's what I'm singing of: Not me and no one else, of course; There's not one word of youth and love Nor anything; I thought this up, once, on my horse While slumbering.
I don't know my own sign at birth; I'm neither native here nor strange; I don't feel either gloom or mirth. Don't blame me, though- A fairy one night worked the change That's made me so.
I don't know if I sleep or wake Unless somebody's told me that. This heart of mine is like to break For grief and care; Yet the whole thing's not worth one sprat To me, I swear.
I'm sick and shivering with death-fright Though all I know is what I've heard. I'll seek some doctor for my plight- Which one's best, though? He's one fine doctor if I'm cured; If worse, not so.
My little friend (I don't know who, Since she's the one girl I've not seen) Gives me no grief or joy-that's true, Which suits me fine; No French- or Norman's come between House-walls of mine.
Anc non la vi et am la fort, Anc no n'aic dreyt ni no·m fes tort; Quan non la vey, be m'en deport, No·m pretz un jau Qu'ie·n sai gensor et ballazor, E que mais vau.
No sai lo luec ves en s'esta, Si es en pueg ho es en pla; Non aus dire lo tort que m'a, Abans m'en cau; E peza·m be quar sai rema, Ab aitan vau.
Fag ai lo vers, no say de cuy; E trametrai lo a selhuy Que lo·m trametra per autruy Lay vers Anjau, Que·m tramezes del sieu estuy La contraclau.
Though I've not seen her, my love's strong; Not seeing her, I'm scarce undone; She never did me right or wrong And who cares, for I know a nicer, fairer one Who's worth lots more.
As for her homeland, I don't know Whether she's from the hill or plain; I don't dare claim she's wronged me so I'll just pre-grieve; Though staying here is such a pain I'm going to leave.
My song's all made-don't know what on- I'll send it to someone, so he, Through someone, sends it to someone In Anjou, there, Who, from his box, will send the key To what stays here.
W. D. Snodgrass
Farai un vers, pos mi somelh Guillem de Peiteus
Farei un vers, pos mi somelh E·m vauc e m'estauc al solelh. Domnas i a de mal conselh, E sai dir cals: Cellas c'amor de cavalier Tornon a mals.
Domna fai gran pechat mortal Qe no ama cavalier leal; Mas si es monge o clergal, Non a raizo: Per dreg la deuri'hom cremar Ab un tezo.
En Alvernhe, part Lemozi, M'en aniey totz sols a tapi: Trobei la moller d'en Guari E d'en Bernart; Saluderon mi simplamentz Per sant Launart.
La una·m diz en son latin: "E Dieus vos salf, don pelerin; Mout mi semblatz de bel aizin, Mon escient; Mas trop vezem anar pel mon De folla gent."
Ar auzires qu'ai respondut; Anc no li diz ni bat ni but, Ni fer ni fust no ai mentaugut, Mas sol aitan: Babariol, babariol, Babarian."
The Ladies with the Cat Guillem de Peiteus
While sound asleep, I'll walk along In sunshine, making up my song. Some ladies get the rules all wrong; I'll tell you who: The ones that turn a knight's love down And scorn it, too.
Grave mortal sins such ladies make Who won't make love for a knight's sake; And they're far worse, the ones who'll take A monk or priest- They ought to get burned at the stake At very least.
Down in Auvergne, past Limousin, Out wandering on the sly I ran Into the wives of Sir Guarin And Sir Bernard; They spoke a proper welcome then By St. Leonard.
One said in her dialect, Sir Pilgrim, may the Lord protect Men so sweet-mannered, so correct, With such fine ways; This whole world's full of lunatics And rogues, these days."
For my reply-I'll swear to you I didn't tell them Bah or Boo, I answered nothing false or true; I just said, then, Babario, babariew, Babarian."
So diz n'Agnes a n'Ermessen: "Trobat avem que anam queren. Sor, per amor Deu, l'alberguem, Qe ben es mutz, E ja per lui nostre conselh Non er saubutz."
La una·m pres sotz son mantel, Menet m'en sa cambra, al fornel. Sapchatz qu'a mi fo bon a bel, E·l focs fo bos, Et eu calfei me volentiers Als gros carbos.
A manjar mi deron capos, E sapchatz agui mais de dos, E no·i ac cog ni cogastros, Mas sol nos tres, E·l pans fo blancs e·l vins fo bos E·l pebr' espes.
"Sor, aquest hom es enginhos, E laissa lo parlar per nos: Nos aportem nostre gat ros De mantenent, Qe·l fara parlar az estros, Si de re·nz ment."
N'Agnes anet per l'enujos, E fo granz et ac loncz guinhos: E eu, can lo vi entre nos, Aig n'espavent, Q'a pauc non perdei la valor E l'ardiment.
So Agnes said to Ermaline, "Let's take him home, quick; don't waste time. He's just the thing we hoped to find: 7 Mute as a stone. No matter what we've got in mind, It won't get known."
Under her cloak, one let me hide; We slipped up to her room's fireside. By now, I thought one could abide To play this role- Right willingly I warmed myself At their live coals.
They served fat capons for our fare- I didn't stop at just one pair; We had no cook or cook's boy there, But just us three. The bread was white, the pepper hot, The wine flowed free.
"Wait, sister, this could be a fake; He might play dumb just for our sake. See if our big red cat's awake And fetch him, quick. Right here's one silence we should break If it's a trick."
So Agnes brought that wicked beast, Mustachioed, huge, and full of yeast; To see him sitting at our feast- Seemed less than good; I very nearly lost my nerve And hardihood.
Qant aguem begut a manjat, Eu mi despoillei a lor grat. Detras m'aporteron lo gat Mal e felon:
La una·l tira del costat Tro al tallon.
Per la coa de mantenen Tira·l gat et el escoissen: Plajas mi feron mais de cen Aqella ves; Mas eu no·m mogra ges enguers, Qui m'ausizes.
"Sor, diz n'Agnes a n'Ermessen, Mutz es, qe ben es conoissen; Sor, del banh nos apareillem E del sojorn." Ueit jorns ez encar mais estei En aquel forn.
Tant las fotei com auzirets: Cen e quatre vint et ueit vetz, Q'a pauc no·i rompei mos coretz E mos arnes; E no·us pues dir lo malaveg, Tan gran m'en pres.
Ges no·us sai dir lo malaveg, Tan gran m'en pres.
We'd had our fill of drink and food, So I undressed, as they thought good. They brought that vile cat where I stood- My back was turned; And then they raked him down my side From stem to stern.
And all at once, they yanked his tail To make him dig in, tooth and nail; I got a hundred scars, wholesale, Right then and there. They could have flayed me, though, before I'd budge one hair.
So Agnes said to Ermaline, "He's mute for sure, sister; that's fine. Let's take a nice warm bath, unwind, Then take things slow." I stayed inside their oven there Eight days or so.
I screwed them, fairly to relate, A full one hundred eighty eight. My breech-strap near broke at that rate, Also my reins. I can't recount all my distress Or half my pains.
No; I can't tell all my distress Or half my pains.
W. D. Snodgrass
Chapter Two Cercamon
Cercamon was a jongleur.... And he wandered all over the world, wherever he could go, and that was why he was called Cercamon.
We can surmise that Cercamon played an important role in carrying the troubadour culture out from its cradle in Poitiers to a broader audience. We know that he was associated with that court because he offered a planh on the death of Guillem the eighth count of Poitiers (the son of the First Troubadour) in 1137. Another topical reference in Cercamon's poetry, to the preaching of the Second Crusade, shows that he continued to compose in the 1140s, just prior to the time when a broader number of nobles were beginning to patronize the makers of song. Finally, his nom de plume, "Circle-the-World," hints at a peripatetic existence.
During his time under the eaves of the palace in Poitiers, Cercamon worked artistically with a much greater and more original troubadour, Marcabru. They both apparently hailed from Gascony. While one vida tell us that Marcabru learned the making of songs from Cercamon, it remains unclear who was the teacher and who the disciple, who the troubadour and who the joglar, in this professional relationship. Their roles may well have evolved over time.
The surviving works of Cercamon and Marcabru reveal more points of divergence than of similarity. Cercamon was not driven to express an original worldview as was Marcabru: his poems are more conventional. Regarding style, Cercamon himself claimed that "the vers is simple, and I am polishing it, without any vulgar, improper or false word, and it is entirely composed in such a way that I have used only elegant terms in it." Here Cercamon may be taking a swipe at Marcabru, whose unique poetic voice does not shrink from occasionally salty or unconventional language. But literary criticism has moved away from a preoccupation with elegance, and now Marcabru's poetry is regarded as distinctly superior to that of "Circle-the-World."
Quant l'aura doussa s'amarzis Cercamon
Quant l'aura doussa s'amarzis E·l fuelha chai de sul verjan E l'auzelh chanjan lor latis, Et ieu de sai sospir e chan D'amor que·m te lassat e pres, Que eu anc non l'aic en poder.
Las! Qu'ieu d'Amor non ai conquis Mas can lo trebalh e l'afan, Ni res tan greu no·s covertis Com fai so qu'ieu vauc deziran; Ni tal enveja no·m fai res Cum fai so qu'ieu non puosc aver.
Per una joia m'esbaudis Fina, qu'anc re non amiey tan. Quan suy ab lieys si m'esbahis Qu'ieu no·ill sai dire mon talan, E quan m'en vauc, vejaire m'es Que tot perda·l sen e·l saber.
Tota la gensor qu'anc hom vis Encontra lieys non pretz un guan; Quan totz lo segles brunezis, De lai on ylh es si resplan. Dieus me respieyt tro qu'ieu l'ades O qu'ieu la vej' anar jazer. Totz trassalh e bran e fremis Per s'amor, durmen o velhan. Tal paor ai qu'ieu mesfalhis No m'aus pessar cum la deman, Mas servir l'ai dos ans o tres, E pueys ben leu sabra·n lo ver.
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Table of Contents
Part 1: Dawn of a New Age
Guillem de Peiteus
Ab la dolchor del temps novel / A New Song for New Days
Farai un vers de dreyt nien / The Nothing Song
Farai un vers, pos mi somelh / The Ladies with the Cat
Quant l'aura doussa s'amarzis / When the Sweet Air Goes Bitter
A la fontana del vergier / By the Bank
L'autrier jost' una sebissa / The Peasant Lassie
Pax in nomine Domini! / The Cleansing Place
Lanquan li jorn / A Love Afar
Quan lo rossinhol el fulhos / The Nightingale
Part 2: Zenith of the Troubadours
Bernart de Ventadorn
Can vei la lauzeta mover / The Skylark
Can l'erba fresch' / When Tender Grass and Leaves Appear
Pois preyatz me, senhor / You've Asked, My Lords, for Song
Lancan vei la folha / Now the Birds Are Leaving
Be m'an perdut lai enves Ventadorn / Farewell to Ventadorn
Non es meravelha s'eu chan / No Marvel If My Song's the Best
Rossinhol, el seu repaire / Nightengale, for Me Take Flight
Deiosta ls breus iorns e ls loncs sers / When Days Grow Short and Night Advances
Er resplan la flors enversa / Splendid Are the Flowers Reversed
Escotatz, mas no say que s'es / Beg Pardon, Lords
Guiraut de Bornelh
Reis glorios / Day's Glorious Lord
Can lo freitz e l glatz e la neus / When the Ice and Cold and Snow Retreat
Peire Bremon lo Tort
En abril, quan vey verdeyar / From Syria
Bertran de Born
Be m platz lo gais temps de pascor / A War Song
Un sirventes on motz no falh / Quarrels Where Words Don't Miss Fire
Domna, puois de me no us chal / Lady, Since You Care Nothing for Me
Ieu m'escondisc, domna, que mal no mier / He Protests His Innocence to a Lady
Belh m'es, quan vey camjar lo senhoratge / The Secret to Staying Young
Si tuit li dol e il plor e il marrimen / Planh for the Young English King
Comtessa de Dia
Estat ai en greu cossirier / Cruel Are the Pains I've Suffered
A chantar m'er de so q'ieu no volria / I'm Forced to Sing
Maria de Ventadorn and Gui d'Ussel
Gui d'Ussel be m pesa de vos / When a Lady Loves
Monge de Montaudon
Mout me platz deportz e gaieza / What I Like
Be m'enueia, s'o auzes dire / What I Don't Like
Chansson do il mot son plan e prim / I'll Make a Song
Autet e bas entrels prims fuoills / Now High and Low, Where Leaves Renew
Doutz brais e critz / Sweet Cries and Cracks
Can chai la fueilla / When Sere Leaf Falleth
L'aura amara / The Bitter Air
En cest sonet coind'e leri / Canzon: Of the Trades and Love
Arnaut de Marueill
Si m destreignetz, dompna, vos et Amors / Lady, by You and Love I Am So Swayed
Belh m'es quan lo vens m'alena / Fair Is It to Me
Del gran golfe de mar / From the Depths of the Sea
Pos tornatz sui en Proensa / To Provence I Can Return Now
Ab l'alen tir vas me l'aire / The Song of Breath
Atressi co l signes fai / Even as the Swan
Raimbaut de Vaqueiras
Kalenda maya / May Day
Guillem de Cabestanh
Lo jorn qu'ie us vi, dompna, primeiramen / That Day, My Lady, When I First Discovered That You Exist
Part 3: Destruction of the Southern Courts
Folquet de Marseilla
Tant m'abellis l'amoros pessamens / So Pleasureth Me the Amorous Thought
Una ciutatz fo, no sai cals / There Was a Town
Ar me puesc ieu lauzar d'Amor / I Dare to Claim, Now, Love Cannot
Un sirventes novel vueill comensar / A New Protest Song
D'un sirventes far en est son que m'agenssa / Rome, Where Goodness Declines
Planher vuelh En Blacatz en aquest leugier so / I Want to Mourn Blacatz
Guillelma de Rosers and Lanfranc Cigala
Na Guillelma, maunt cavalier arratge / Which of the Two Behaved Most Fittingly?
Be m degra de chantar tener / It Would Be Best If I Refrained from Singing
Appendix: Alternate Translations
When the Soft Wind Turns Bitter (Quant l'aura doussa s'amarzis)
Folquet de Marseilla
So Much Does the Anxiety of Love Please Me
(Tant m'abellis l'amoros pessamens)
Index of First Lines and Titles